Goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo outstanding for Villarreal at Real Madrid / www.villarrealcf.es

FC Barcelona’s title hopes received a major boost on Sunday when rivals Real and Atlético Madrid were both held to draws. The result means that the gap on the leaders has narrowed to just two points, while defending champions Atlético are now five points behind the Catalans.

Villarreal hold out at Bernabéu

A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty just after half-time put Real Madrid in the driving seat against Barcelona’s Spanish Cup semi-final opponents Villarreal, who opted to rest several players with Wednesday’s game in mind. But Gerard Moreno got the visitors back level after 64 minutes and despite having a total of 25 shots, Real Madrid were unable to find a response and ended up dropping their first points at the Bernabéu since last September.

In order to get back in control of their own destiny, Barça needed somebody to do them a favour and take points off Madrid. Now that that has happened, as things currently stand a victory in the clásico at the Camp Nou on March 22 would put Barça one point ahead of their title rivals.

In the game played immediately before, Atlético Madrid dropped further out of the title race with a 0-0 draw at Champions League hopefuls Sevilla.

Rayo win, Man City lose

Next Sunday at 12.00pm CET, Barça entertain Rayo Vallecano, who managed to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone by beating third-from-bottom Levante. Despite going behind after thirteen minutes, Rayo responded with four goals in the space of fourteen minutes – all of which were scored by Alberto Bueno, who thus made history by becoming the first Rayo player to score a ‘poker’ of goals in a top flight match. The game ended 4-2.

Barça’s Champions League rivals Manchester City went down 2-1 to Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday in the Premier League – a result that leaves them five points off leaders Chelsea, who have played a game less.

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